ID bands help protect people with disabilities

Sarah Elms
Traverse City Record-Eagle

Traverse City — Peace of mind. That’s what medical identification bracelets bring to Becky and Michael Dornoff.

“We have a number of severely disabled children. We thought it was a really good idea for their safety,” Becky Dornoff said.

The Williamsburg couple’s children are among more than 100 community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are now sporting bracelets that display emergency contacts and medical information. The recent distribution was made possible by Roger and Elaine Loeffelbein, who donated the ID bands to interested families.

“We feel like they’re a lot more safe now,” Becky Dornoff said. “Things happen that you just don’t expect.”

An unexpected incident is what prompted the Loeffelbeins to take action in the first place.

Their son Mark Loeffelbein, 50, was riding his bicycle in June when he was struck by a motorist and badly injured. He told first responders not to take him to the hospital, but he doesn’t have the ability to make his own medical decisions.

Loeffelbein has Williams syndrome — a genetic condition that causes developmental delays, learning disabilities and cardiovascular complications — and Roger Loeffelbein is his legal guardian.

The emergency responders didn’t know about his syndrome, so they let him go home when he should have been hospitalized.

The Loeffelbeins were shaken from the incident. They called on Grand Traverse Industries, local law enforcement, emergency medical services, Disability Network Northern Michigan, Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, Munson Medical Center and local probate courts to come up with a plan to make sure what happened to their son wouldn’t happen again.

Providing medical ID bracelets to disabled individuals was a quick, simple, cost-effective and low-tech solution, said Steve Perdue, GTI’s president and CEO.

“From our perspective, we are delighted. We were surprised that over 100 people wanted these,” Roger Loeffelbein said. “It’s obviously a need that was there, and we’re glad that we’re able to fill it.”

For Becky Dornoff, the extra precaution goes beyond putting the bracelets on her children. She said police, firefighters and medics must know to look for the ID bands around both wrists and ankles — and know what to do when they find one.

The Loeffelbeins worked with Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien to get sample ID bands to emergency response departments for training.

“I really do feel like when it comes to the disabled and the special needs in our community, I feel like people really step up to the plate,” Becky Dornoff said. “My kids are so lucky to live in this area.”

The Loeffelbeins agreed to fund a one-time order for the ID bracelets, but Perdue is still fielding phone calls from guardians interested in the extra safety measure for their family members. He said GTI can help families find an option that works for them so they can order their own.

Roger Loeffelbein is hopeful his son’s story will continue to spread and help other people with disabilities.

“This is such a simple solution to a serious problem,” he said. “This is something that should reach much farther than Traverse City, Michigan.”